Students Should Have to Wear School Uniforms
Belinda Luscombe ; March 25, 2014;
A middle school in Illinois made headlines this week because it got a little more stringent with
its ban on students wearing
yoga pants and leggings. It’s not the only school with
issues; almost every week there’s a
local story about some problem over what kids wear to
school. It’s a
takes up a lot of time for school administrators. And parents. But it’s the
world’s easiest education problem to solve: school uniforms.
I know, nobody likes school uniforms. I wore one for 13 years, and cursed it every single day.
But this is exactly why I’m such a fan. To me, it seems that almost any problem facing schools
today could be solved by uniforms. Here’s a sample of their magical powers:
School Uniforms Alleviate Bullying/Harrassment
They are great levelers. With a strategically chosen uniform, body type disappears. And it’s hard
to distinguish who is cool and who is not. It’s harder to discern the differences in socio-economic
background. Nobody wants any item of clothing that the other is wearing; all are equally
undesirable, so thieving and general adolescent covetousness are reduced. Every student can find
commonality with another; a repulsion for what they are forced to wear. And if schools really are
worried about boys being distracted by the female form, the right school uniform is a stiff
School Uniforms Empower School Staff
A uniform is not the same thing as a dress code. There’s no arguing about whether Ariel’s shiny
aqua micro mini is in accordance with the requirement for a “blue skirt.” There’s a uniform; no
shades of grey, just the one drab hue the manufacturers managed to come up with. No endless
back and forth between child, parents and school. Moreover, when a kid’s in uniform, he or she
sticks out like a sore thumb. The local community knows where that kid belongs. It’s harder for
kids to skip school or get into trouble outside school. They’re too easily spotted. At the boys’
school near mine, the young men were obliged to pick up any litter on the street, even if they did
not drop it. They were also obliged to doff their hats to any car that stopped to let them cross the
road. Australia isn’t exactly known for its formality, so this was not normal behavior. But since
the boys were in uniform, people expected it of them.
School Uniforms Fund Education
Kids change out of uniforms the moment they get home. They don’t wear them on weekends.
Nobody ever wants to hang on to them for
one second longer
than they have to. Consequently,
they can be donated back to the school. People who can’t afford new uniforms can purchase pre-
worn ones, with the money going to fund school programs. And since uniforms are never
fashionable (or unfashionable), and the schools can easily identify their potential customers, the
demand for them is very predictable and robust. Parents who can afford new uniforms, on the
other hand, will enjoy being spared the daily airing of opinions as to what is and what is not an
appropriate thing for a student to wear in a learning environment.
School uniforms keep students focused on their education, not their clothes.
A bulletin published by the National Association of Secondary School Principals stated that
“When all students are wearing the same outfit, they are less concerned about how they look and
how they fit in with their peers; thus, they can concentrate on their schoolwork.” A study by the
University of Houston found that elementary school girls’ language test scores increased by
about three percentile points after uniforms were introduced. Former US Secretary of State and
presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, advocated school uniforms as a way to help students focus
on learning: “Take that [clothing choices] off the table and put the focus on school, not on what
you’re wearing.” Chris Hammons, Principal of Woodland Middle School in Coeur d’Alene, ID,
stated that uniforms “provide for less distraction, less drama, and more of a focus on learning.”
School Uniforms Empower Students
School uniform violations are like tax dodges. A lot of people transgress a bit, but most people
still pay their taxes. At my school, we were not allowed to wear sweaters outside the school
grounds unless they were covered by the school blazer or a raincoat. (It was a very strange rule,
obviously established in the era of the sweater girl but made no sense in my time, the era of the
Great Oversized Pullover) Clearly, raincoats were only supposed to be worn when it was raining.
But the rebels among us sometimes wore them on cloudless days. Or we made tiny, visible-only-
to-the-teenage-eye adjustments to the buttons or collars. Or we wore our gym tunics (yellow,
with, I kid you not, bloomers) on a day we did not have P.E. We will not be silenced! we
thought, as the teachers carefully smothered their laughter.
School Uniforms Create More Interesting Human Beings
What does a person wear after they get to choose their own clothes for almost the first time in
their sentient life? Anything they want. My school had restrictions on haircuts and jewelry as
well as uniforms, so I pretty much dressed like a punk clown for my entire undergraduate career.
For people with actual talent and taste, the results are even more remarkable. Countries that have
school uniforms, including Britain, Italy and Japan produce designers like Vivienne Westwood,
Miuccia Prada and Rei Kawakubo, whose clothes straddle the boundaries of fashion and art.
Countries without school uniforms produce designers like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, who
make great clothes, many of which look a lot like uniforms.
Students Should Not Have to Wear School Uniforms
Traditionally favored by private and parochial institutions, school uniforms are being adopted by
US public schools in increasing numbers. About one in five US public schools (21%) required
students to wear uniforms during the 2015-2016 school year, up from one in eight in 2003-2004.
Mandatory uniform policies in public schools are found more commonly in high-poverty areas.
Opponents say school uniforms infringe upon students’ right to express their individuality, have
no positive effect on behavior and academic achievement, and emphasize the socioeconomic
disparities they are intended to disguise. Here are a few reasons why:
School uniforms restrict students’ freedom of expression.
The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees that all individuals have the right to
express themselves freely. The US Supreme Court stated in
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent
Community School District
(7-2, 1969) that “it can hardly be argued that either students or
teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse
gate.” In the 1970 case
Richards v. Thurston
(3-0), which revolved around a boy refusing to
have his hair cut shorter, the US First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that “compelled conformity
to conventional standards of appearance” does not “seem a justifiable part of the educational
process.” Clothing choices are “a crucial form of self-expression,” according to the American
Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, which also stated that “allowing students to choose their
clothing is an empowering message from the schools that a student is a maturing person who is
entitled to the most basic self-determination.” Clothing is also a popular means of expressing
support for various social causes and compulsory uniforms largely remove that option. Students
at Friendly High School in Prince George’s County, MD, were not allowed to wear pink shirts to
support Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As a result, 75 students received in-school suspensions
for breaking the school’s uniform restrictions.
School uniforms promote conformity over individuality.
At a time when schools are encouraging an appreciation of diversity, enforcing standardized
dress sends a contradictory message. Chicago junior high school student Kyler Sumter wrote in
: “They decide to teach us about people like Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony
and Booker T. Washington… We learn about how these people expressed themselves and
conquered and we can’t even express ourselves in the hallways.” Troy Shuman, a senior in
Harford County, MD, said the introduction of a mandatory uniform policy to his school would be
“teaching conformity and squelching individual thought. Just think of prisons and gangs. The
ultimate socializer to crush rebellion is conformity in appearance. If a school system starts at
clothes, where does it end?” In schools where uniforms are specifically gendered (girls must
wear skirts and boys must wear pants), transgendered, gender-fluid, and gender-nonconforming
students can feel ostracized. Seamus, a 16-year-old transgendered boy, stated, “sitting in a blouse
and skirt all day made me feel insanely anxious. I wasn’t taken seriously. This is atrocious and
damaging to a young person’s mental health; that uniform nearly destroyed me.”
School uniforms do not stop bullying and may increase violent attacks.
Tony Volk, PhD, Associate Professor at Brock University, stated, “Overall, there is no evidence
in bullying literature that supports a reduction in violence due to school uniforms.” A peer-
reviewed study found that “school uniforms increased the average number of assaults by about
14 [per year] in the most violent schools.” A Texas Southern University study found that school
discipline incidents rose by about 12% after the introduction of uniforms. According to the
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Office of Education Evaluation and Management, fights in
middle schools nearly doubled within one year of introducing mandatory uniforms.
School uniforms emphasize the socio-economic divisions they are supposed to eliminate.
Most public schools with uniform policies are in poor neighborhoods, emphasizing the class
distinctions that uniforms were supposed to eliminate. According to the National Center for
Education Statistics, 47% of high-poverty public schools required school uniforms, while only
6% of low-poverty public schools required them. Even within one school, uniforms cannot
conceal the differences between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” David L. Brunsma, PhD, stated
that “more affluent families buy more uniforms per child. The less affluent… they have one… It’s
more likely to be tattered, torn and faded. It only takes two months for socioeconomic
differences to show up again.” According to the Children’s Society (UK), almost 800,000 pupils
go to school in poorly fitted uniforms because their parents cannot afford new items. Uniforms
also emphasize racial divisions. Schools with a minority student population of 50% or more are
four times as likely to require uniforms than schools with a minority population of 20-49%, and
24 times more likely than schools with minority populations of 5%-19%.
Focusing on uniforms takes attention away from finding genuine solutions to problems in
Spending time and effort implementing uniform policies may detract from more
effective efforts to reduce crime in schools and boost student performance. More substantive
improvements to public education could be achieved with smaller class sizes, tightened security,
increased parental involvement, improved facilities, and other measures.
Once you have carefully read both articles, write a short essay (800-1000 words) that answers the prompt below.
Should students be required to wear uniforms in school?
Your essay should include:
- An introduction with a hook, background information and a thesis that directly answers my prompt
- 2-3 body paragraphs that follow PIE structure, starting with a Point that is an opinion, using quotes from the articles as Information and Explaining the quotes thoroughly. There should be two quotes, both with explanations, so PIEIE.
- A one sentence counter argument that comes before one of your Points (the Point would be your refutation)
- A conclusion that restates the thesis and gives a final thought.